"You prepare, then you make a big mess and laugh a lot, and then you clean up."
If you’ve never taught an art class for kids before, let me summarize the experience for you. You prepare, then you make a big mess and laugh a lot, and then you clean up. It is an exhausting and very rewarding experience and one that I can’t believe I get to do regularly as part of my job. I am a multi-passionate creative, working mostly as a calligrapher and copywriter. My real “play” is when I teach a brushlettering course for kids on the weekends. My students are usually girls, ages 8-14. They may have spent the week made to feel bad for filling their school notebooks with doodles and loop-dee-looping their letters. But in my class, this is core curriculum. We learn to make beautiful letters and eventually we practice writing our favorite quotes or Scripture verses.
My students go on to create Instagram accounts to show and tell their work, and to delight their families and friends with beautiful cards and letters. In an age where “digital ink” is the preferred medium, the slow art of brushlettering can be an important meditation for these young people.
In fine-tuning their lettering skills, some of my students find “their thing” and then the real magic happens. Some of my students have come on board to help assist me with lessons. I pay these young people to help me set up for class and come alongside students who are a step behind. Right before my eyes, I see their confidence start to rise. My teaching assistants *own* their lessons. They command respect from the students and they appear to have fun while they’re at it.
This is perhaps one of the most spiritual experiences a teacher can hope to have. We get to see the fruits of our labor in real time. We get to witness a young person absorbing what she has learned and then share it--with panache! What a privilege to know that what we teach makes a difference in the lives of others and that it can be a gift that keeps on giving.
As a teacher, sometimes it is difficult to “surrender” my control over the classroom to an assistant, even for a few minutes. But this is also what God has done. He has given us his word and Holy Spirit and entrusted us to share his message of divine love. We may wax and wobble as we learn to spread the Gospel, but we know we are image bearers of the One who made us (Gen 1:26-27). Through teaching and mentoring, I am able to live out the wild business of being God’s beloved, and I am grateful for this experience every day.
Kendra Stanton Lee is a calligrapher and copywriter in Boston. She maintains an artful life with her therapist husband and their two young children. You can find her on @kendraspondence in all the social media places and spaces, as well as at www.kendrastantonlee.com.